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How Much Exercise Does a Cat Need?

Updated: Sep 21, 2023

Note: Originally written for Pet Keen

Although cats may sleep up to 20 hours a day, they still need regular exercise to be healthy and happy members of your family. Indoor cats are more prone to inactivity and obesity compared to their outdoor counterparts, so providing ample opportunities for play is essential. Playtime keeps your cat stimulated, active, and healthy by maintaining an ideal body weight and a sound mind.

How Long Should My Cat Exercise Per Day?

Cats, on average, need at least 30 minutes of exercise daily, which can be split into two short 15-minute sessions. This time can vary, however, depending on your cat’s age, breed, and weight. Older cats can have 2–3 play sessions while younger cats can have up to 10 play sessions per day. Outdoor cats may spend several hours a day roaming and hunting, which fulfills their natural instincts to climb, run, jump, and play. Indoor cats have less opportunity to satisfy their innate curiosity, so we must provide these interactions for them. Ensure that your indoor cat doesn’t become bored by interacting with your cat on a daily basis and providing a variety of toys and activities that stimulate both body and mind.

Should I Let My Indoor Cat Outside?

While outdoor cats may have more opportunities for play, exercise, and mental stimulation, they are also exposed to more dangers than indoor cats. Safer options include building a catio or training your cat to walk on a harness and leash. These alternatives will help keep your cat safe while providing them with fresh air, exercise, and opportunities to explore their environment.

How Can I Keep My Indoor Cat Engaged?

Creating an environment for your cat that encourages exercise may take trial and error as cats are individuals. What stimulates play in one cat may be ignored by another. Cats are naturally active hunters, but an indoor lifestyle may hinder their predatory instincts since humans provide food for them and there are fewer opportunities to hunt. Part of being a responsible pet owner is making sure your pets’ needs are met while ensuring they are happy and healthy in their surroundings. To encourage your cat to exercise, you can try:

  • Toys that promote hunting behavior

  • Creating an obstacle course in your home to lure your cat through

  • Setting up a cat tree for scratching and climbing

  • Hiding favorite treats around your home for your cat to find

  • Introducing an exercise wheel

  • Exercising your cat’s thinking skills with a puzzle feeder

Rotating toys on a regular basis will help your cat maintain an interest in them and lessen boredom. Don’t forget the important role you play in the health and happiness of your cat. Scheduling play sessions is not only entertaining but can strengthen the bond between you and your cat.

What Are the Negative Consequences of a Lack of Exercise?

Much like humans, cats living a sedentary lifestyle are prone to obesity. Overweight cats are susceptible to adverse effects such as stress and inflammation in their bodies, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and arthritis. Obesity makes it difficult for cats to move and groom themselves, which can lead to matted and dirty hair. A lack of regular exercise leading to obesity can decrease a cat’s quality of life. Other negative consequences include destructive or aggressive behavior, stress, anxiety, overeating, overgrooming, boredom, or depression.

Tips for Keeping Your Pet Safe

  • Encourage your cat to exercise for at least 30 minutes per day

  • Interact with your cat on a daily basis

  • Provide a variety of toys and activities to prevent boredom

  • Build a catio or train your cat to walk on a leash for safe outdoor exercise

  • Improve your cat’s quality of life by preventing obesity


Cats are naturally active predators that enjoy short bursts of activity. Outdoor cats may fulfill their exercise requirements through roaming and hunting, but we have to work a little harder to provide enrichment activities for indoor cats. This can be achieved through play sessions, offering a variety of toys, and mentally stimulating activities to keep them interested and engaged. You can keep your cat happy and healthy through daily exercise sessions, and ward off obesity, diabetes, and other health conditions that may develop as a result of a sedentary lifestyle.


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Image by Sean Sinclair

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